After last season’s defensive debacle, Denver Broncos fans can surely expect changes made to their defense. Add in the fact that the Broncos have an entirely new coaching staff and defensive philosophy, and the Broncos are primed for a complete defensive makeover.
With Mike Nolan coming in as the team's new defensive coordinator, the Broncos will start to make the transition to a 3-4 defense, something they do not have the personnel for right now.
The team has small defensive ends, no semblance of a dominant nose tackle, and weak safety play—a recipe for disaster.
There are some bright spots, though. The Broncos have a "top-15 pick," giving them ample opportunity to draft a defensive starter. They have D.J. Williams starting at OLB, who is becoming one of the best young linebackers in the league, and Champ Bailey, who when healthy, is still one of the top three cover corners in the league.
The Broncos also have two promising second-year players that are primed for starting jobs in 2009: linebacker Wesley Woodyard and safety Josh Barrett.
With those four as starters in 2009, that leaves seven positions for the Broncos to fill. However, they have plenty of opportunities to do so.
If the Broncos wishes come true, Jarvis Moss and Tim Crowder will finally live up to expectations and become integral parts of the defensive end rotation. The two will hopefully be joined by another rookie end, which I hope the Broncos draft in either the third our fourth round.
As for the nose tackle position, expect the Broncos to draft Fili Moala in the second round to be the starter, and expect Marcus Thomas to back him up.
At linebacker, the Broncos should have two starters already in place, with Williams and Woodyard on the outside. With their first round pick, the Broncos should look no further than Rey Maualuga, who would become an instant force at ILB.
And, while the Broncos have little money for the free agency market, expect them to spend some of it on an inside linebacker, preferably Channing Crowder, a solid young MLB who could be had for a lower price than some others.
Also, I would like to see Elvis Dumervil groomed to be a rush linebacker in passing situations, similar to the role played by DeMarcus Ware in Dallas. They both have a similar body-type and skillset, so Dumervil could fit perfectly in that role.
In the secondary, expect Marlon McCree, Marquand Manuel, and Dre’ Bly to be released. Champ Bailey will start at one corner, and Barrett will claim one of the starting safety jobs.
For the other two jobs, the Broncos must look to the outside for help. I expect the Broncos to spend the remaining amount of their free agent budget here, as there are young, potential starters in both markets that will not demand large contracts.
At corner, Dunta Robinson and Bryant McFadden are both young corners who have played backup roles most of their careers, but are ready for a starting job.
Expect second-year Broncos Josh Bell and Jack Williams to become backup corners.
At safety, there are a slew of free agents, both youthful and experienced, who could be bought as a starter for a small contract. Players such as Jermaine Phillips, Oshiomogho Atogwe, and Mike Brown are all free agents, and would all be a huge upgrade over McCree or Manuel.
If the Broncos make these position upgrades, and change from the 4-3 defense to the 3-4 without many struggles, they could be primed for a huge improvement on defense in 2009.
Your 2009 Denver Broncos Defensive Starters:
DE: Jarvis Moss/Tim Crowder/Rookie
DT: Fili Moala/Marcus Thomas
OLB: D.J. Williams/Wesley Woodyard
MLB: Rey Maualuga/Channing Crowder
CB: Champ Bailey/Dunta Robinson or Bryant McFadden
S: Josh Barrett/Jermaine Phillips, Oshiomogho Atogwe, or Mike Brown